Erroll Southers: “You Should Be the Change That You’re Looking For”

Dr. Erroll Southers, CREATE Associate Director and Director of the Safe Communities Institute at USC, was a recent guest on the extremely podcast, hosted by Oren Segal and sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and American University. In the November 14, 2021, episode, “You should be the change that you’re looking for,” Professor Southers discussed his background in law enforcement, his academic focus on homegrown terrorism, and his continuing work in countering violent extremism.

An Eagle Scout from a small town in New Jersey, Southers began his career in law enforcement in the early 1980s with the Santa Monica Police Department and later joined the FBI to work in counterintelligence and terrorism. He prominently served in the California Governor’s Office of Homeland Security just after 9/11 as the Deputy Director of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Unit, and then capped his law enforcement career as the Assistant Chief over Homeland Security and Intelligence for the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department. 

Southers credits his criminal justice background for his approach to educating the law enforcement community. “I understand law enforcement from the local, state and federal perspective, and I think it has greatly informed the way I teach…and am received,” he told host Oren Segal.  Southers’ advice to law enforcement professionals: “Be willing to be a student. I will always be a student, no matter how long I am a professor. I’ve gone into communities and basically said to the people there, ‘You are the professor now. You educate me.’” 

Southers also recommends interdisciplinary solutions: “You can’t look at this from a social sciences perspective or a sciences perspective or a policy perceptive – you’ve got to consider all of those domains.”  Above all, Southers wants the law enforcement community to be part of the solution. “Because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean that you can do nothing. Start to educate yourself.  Start to make yourself more aware of what is happening.”  

To learn more about the work, educational opportunities, and research conducted by the Safe Communities Institute, visit The full episode of the extremely podcast featuring Dr. Southers can be heard here.

Posted December 7, 2021